Volunteer efforts to save the Coromandel’s kauri from PTA have taken a major step forward with the appointment of Tairua’s Alison Smith as the new Coromandel Kauri Dieback Forum co-ordinator.
The appointment follows last year’s Forum workshops in which local communities around the Peninsula worked together to identify ways to limit the impact of kauri dieback disease (Phytophthera taxon agathis).
Alison will help set up, support and co-ordinate community-led programmes to contain the spread of kauri dieback disease in the Coromandel area.
“We are extremely grateful to the Department of Conservation for the funding which has made this possible,” says interim Forum chair Vivienne McLean. “We are confident that Alison’s communications expertise and experience in working with community groups, plus her energy and creative thinking, will enable the Forum to make significant progress from now on. Setting up and supporting local groups will be a top priority, and over the next six months she will be establishing contact and working with schools, developing closer relationships with local iwi and helping us organise our next forum, among other work.”
Kauri dieback disease was first confirmed on the Peninsula last March in the Hukarahi Reserve near Whitianga, and infected sites have since been identified in the Whangapoua catchment. Sites reported by locals in other parts of the Peninsula are currently being investigated.
“It could be seen as a very daunting task – given what our kauri face – but local communities are proving to be very passionate about protecting their kauri and the Forum is just one component in growing network of individuals, organisations and agencies committed to working together to save this iconic species,” says Alison.
“In my previous roles with TCDC and Waikato Regional Council I’ve learned how very lucky we are on the Coromandel to have our networks of residents who generously give their time and energy to volunteering, so it is a real honour to be in this role.”
“We want to hear from anyone who would like to help, whether with ideas or practical actions out in the bush. Every individual can play a vital role in protecting kauri, at work and at play, by helping to spread the word and by observing the proper hygiene procedures.”
“The message is actually pretty simple. Kauri dieback disease is spread through soil movement, so cleanliness is the key, whether you’re tramping, mountain biking, hunting, undertaking pest control, fencing or property development. Scrub your boots, walking poles and any equipment or machinery completely free of soil before and after going into the bush, every time. If you would like to get more involved, contact me about becoming a kauri champion and be part of the great group of people that make up the Coromandel Kauri Dieback Forum,” says Alison.
Kauri dieback disease kills kauri of all sizes and ages, and there is currently no known cure. New Zealand has only around 1 percent of its kauri remaining, which makes efforts to reduce the threat from the microscopic Phytophthora taxon Agathis (or PTA ) disease even more urgent.
Kauri Dieback Programme Relationship Manager Ian Mitchell says the support of both the kauri dieback programme partners and the community is vital for managing PTA spread.
“Kauri is a taonga and incredibly important to New Zealanders and all the programme partners are fully committed to managing the spread of this disease,” says Ian. He says engagement with tangata whenua is also crucial. All tāngata whenua groups across Coromandel and Hauraki are being approached to become active partners in the Forum.